For the past decade, scuba diving instructor Rick Anderson has been a regular visitor to the bays off the coast of Nobbys Beach in Australia. Each time he ventures to the depths of the ocean's floor, he is visited by a friend — one with fins and a love for cuddles.
That's right: Anderson's water playmate is a 6-foot-long Port Jackson shark. She's unnamed, but the experienced diver always recognizes the fish through her markings. "Most divers seeing this for the first time can't believe it," Rick told The Dodo. He treats the shark as he would a dog — tummy rubs and all!
"I did this each time in the first season she was here," Anderson explained. "She soon got used to me...to the point where she will swim up to me when I'm going past and tap me on the legs until I hold my arms out for her to lay on for a cuddle." Port Jackson sharks are smaller than great whites but are often portrayed as more dangerous than they actually are.
For the past 30+ years, Rick has run a diving school, showcasing his relationship with marine life in hopes it will lessen peoples' fear of the gorgeous animal. Aside from Port Jackson sharks, the instructor swims alongside other species such as tiger, banjo, bull, and even the occasional great white.
"The biggest misconception about sharks is that they are all mindless killers lying in wait for people to enter the water so they can be devoured," Anderson explained. No matter their size, Rick admitted, "I have always felt comfortable swimming with these animals." That's why many Rick's Dive School participants have reported feeling almost safer than on land while learning from their instructor! With his experience, they know they're in clear water.
For those looking to travel to the depths of the ocean without getting their hair wet, Rick runs a YouTube channel full of videos swimming alongside marine life. The channel has already gained nearly 1.8K subscribers and includes some of the many cuddles that Port Jackson shark has given his trusted human friend.